SU football notebook: Hornets hoping to learn from loss and prevent letdown

WINCHESTER – Finding ways to remain competitive in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference race has been a persistent struggle for Shenandoah University’s football team since the Hornets joined the league in 2012.

SU fell to Randolph-Macon, 24-19, last Friday night, marking the third straight season – and the fourth time in five years – that the Hornets have lost their ODAC opener. Shenandoah head coach Scott Yoder said after last week’s loss that it’ll be important for the Hornets to mentally rebound from the setback and prevent the loss from snowballing into this weekend’s game at Emory & Henry.

“I really think for our team right now it’s more about emotionally can we get over this, digest it and move forward quickly enough and learn the lessons … because you’re dealing with a group that has high hopes and played their hearts out and didn’t play well enough to win,” Yoder said Monday afternoon.

“That’s the most important thing. How you do that, I’m hoping I know. But because we played Friday night we’re able to get a couple more practices this week to hopefully get it out of our system. And usually when you lose it takes a couple days to get over it, just as a whole organization, and then you get into the practice and regimen and detail prep for the next game and that kind of takes over. Hopefully we can fast-forward that process.”

Yoder said the most important thing the coaching staff can do this week to help prevent an 0-2 start in conference play is show the players the positives gleaned from last week’s loss while pointing out the “correctable mistakes.”

He also took the blame for not trying a field goal on at least one of SU’s two trips deep into Randolph-Macon territory in the first quarter and for not making extensive substitutions for a “gassed” defense following Malik Sims’ fumble return for a touchdown in the second half, which the Yellow Jackets immediately answered with a five-play, 62-yard scoring drive.

Step in the right direction: Yoder said one positive from Friday’s loss was the offense’s execution on the final drive of the first half, during which the Hornets were able to run three plays in the final 16 seconds to set up a 27-yard field goal try that was ultimately missed.

The offense’s overall performance against Randolph-Macon was also an encouraging step forward for that unit, Yoder said, although the Hornets still finished with just 36 yards rushing (dropping SU’s per game average to an ODAC-worst 70 yards), were 4 of 15 on third downs and allowed three more sacks.

Behind the arm of sophomore quarterback Hayden Bauserman (1,170 yards, 12 touchdowns, five interceptions), the Hornets do boast the ODAC’s best passing offense through four games.

“I believe in my heart of hearts that offensively we’ve very, very close,” Yoder said. “And I say that because I think when it’s all said and done, I think Randolph-Macon’s defense is gonna be one of the best that we have played. Do we need to execute better? Absolutely. But we’re not turning it over right now the way we turned it over last year and I think we are a, whether you wanna say it’s a half-step or a fraction away from clicking, I think we’re getting there. And I know guys are frustrated and you’re 2-2 and you wanted to be better, but we are getting better and I think we’re gonna continue to do that and I really think we’re close to having the offense break it out.”

Men on the run: SU’s defense, despite ranking in the top half of the conference in points allowed, total yards allowed, rushing yards allowed and passing yards allowed, has given up at least 140 yards to opposing running backs in three straight games.

Ferrum tailback Brian Mann started that trend in Week 2 with a 21-carry, 147-yard rushing performance against the Hornets. N.C. Wesleyan’s Gerrel Patton followed that with 26 carries for 141 yards in Week 3, and last week Randolph-Macon’s Tre Frederick carried 43 times for 236 yards.

Yoder said despite Frederick’s lofty rushing totals, he felt the Hornets’ defense played well against the Yellow Jackets.

“It’s not an area of concern for me to say hey, we’re in trouble because we can’t stop the run. Each team’s different and we have a plan to take something away each week and I thought to a good extent we did that on Friday night,” Yoder said. “I don’t think we did that well enough against N.C. Wesleyan, and I know that Ferrum gave us some fits running the ball early too. I think we’ve gotten better each week defensively and we’ve got a new challenge playing a team (Emory & Henry) that’s moving the football really well.”

Injury report: Hornets junior receiver Jalen Brisco missed last week’s game with a thumb injury and Yoder said the Sherando High graduate visited the doctor Monday to have his hand examined.

Yoder said Brisco tried practicing with his hand taped up last week and was able to catch the football but he couldn’t effectively block with the injury.

“It was getting better, so I don’t know if it’s really gonna be hey, he’s got ligament damage, he’s gotta have surgery, or just a really bad bruise,” Yoder said, adding that he is not planning on having Brisco available against Emory & Henry this weekend.

SU is already without junior receiver Leonard Scott, who had surgery early last week to clean up cartilage damage in his knee.

“We have good guys and we have good depth there but it’s really getting tested,” Yoder said.

Yoder added after last Friday’s loss that kicker Jacob Newton continues to battle complications during his return from a knee injury suffered last season. Newton hasn’t played since Week 2 and his status remains a week-to-week fluctuation, Yoder said.

Senior Derek Davis, a Millbrook High School graduate, has been handling the field goal kicking in Newton’s absence and missed his only field goal attempt – a 27-yarder – last week. Davis is also 2-for-4 on extra points.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com